Summary: God can do great things in small places and through humble people

(borrowed and adapted from Bob Russell)



TITLE: “Something Great from Something Small: O LITTLE TOWN OF BETHLEHEM”

INTRODUCTION: A. Typical of last minute Christmas shoppers, a mother was running furiously from

store to store. Suddenly she became aware that the pudgy little hand of her three year

old son was no longer clutched in hers. In a panic she retraced her steps and found him

standing with his little nose pressed flatly against a frosty window. He was gazing at a

manger scene.

Hearing his mother’s near hysterical call, he turned and shouted with innocent glee:

"look mommy! it’s Jesus - baby Jesus in the hay". With obvious indifference to his joy

and wonder, she impatiently jerked him away saying, "we don’t have time for that!"

1. Sadly, that’s the attitude of a lot of people at Christmas time

2. They don’t have time for the real meaning of Christmas

3. Instead they’re stressed out about all the wrong things and are distracted from the

right thing

4. Chuck Swindoll writes of a commercial venture by one of the largest department

stores in the nation. It proved to be disastrously unsuccessful. Their idea was a doll

in the form of baby Jesus. It was advertised as being unbreakable, washable and

cuddly. It was packaged in straw with a satin crib and plastic surroundings, and

appropriate biblical texts added here and there to make the scene complete.

It did not sell. The manager of one of the stores panicked. He carried out a last

ditch promotion to get rid of these dolls. He hung a huge sign outside his store that




B. Phillips Brooks was burned out. He was known as the most dynamic and

inspirational preacher of his time, but he had lost his fervor and could not seem to

recover. In his mid twenties he had become pastor of the Holy Trinity Church in

Philadelphia. He recruited a super salesman named Lewis Redner to be his Sunday

School Superintendent and organist. The church exploded in growth. They began with

30 children and within a year there were 1000. The next two years the numbers

increased, partly because of Brooks’ dynamic preaching, partly because of Redner’s


But then the Civil War came and the mood in the church became somber. The

national spirit was dying, women were wearing black due to a husband or son killed in

battle, and darkness fell over every facet of the worship services. Brooks tried to be

inspirational and encourage his church but it was draining him. When the war ended

he thought the vitality and joy would return immediately but it did not.

Abraham Lincoln was assassinated and the pain intensified. Phillips Brooks was not

the President’s pastor, but because he was such a great orator, he was asked to preach

the President’s funeral. He reached down deep and found the appropriate words to say

for the moment but later he was so burned out that he could not rekindle his own

spiritual flame. So he asked the church for a sabbatical and took a trip to the Holy


On Christmas Eve in Jerusalem, he mounted a horse and went off riding. At dusk,

when the first stars were out, he rode into the tiny village of Bethlehem. The town had

changed little since the birth of Christ. It lifted Brooks spirits to be with a few feet of

the very spot where Jesus was born. There was singing in the church of the Nativity

and he felt surrounded by the Spirit of God.

Brooks wrote about his horseback journey from Jerusalem to Bethlehem, where he

assisted with the midnight service on Christmas Eve, 1865: “I remember standing in

the old church in Bethlehem, close to the spot where Jesus was born, when the whole

church was ringing hour after hour with splendid hymns of praise to God, how again

and again it seemed as if I could hear voices I knew well, telling each other of the

Wonderful Night of the Savior’s birth.”

When he returned he wanted some way to express the stirring in his soul and he

decided it would be best communicated in the form of a poem. That was when "O,

Little Town of Bethlehem," was written. Lewis Redner, the organist, provided the


B. Micah 5:2-5 – “"But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans

of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins

are from of old, from ancient times." Therefore Israel will be abandoned until the time

when she who is in labor gives birth and the rest of his brothers return to join the

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